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Health-care study finds many caregivers overwhelmed

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Working adults who are primary caregivers to elderly family members are clamoring for information about community resources, stress management and mental incapacities of the elderly, say two Purdue University School of Nursing researchers.

Jo A. Brooks, head of the School of Nursing, and Peg Krach, associate professor of nursing, surveyed 760 caregivers at Purdue. They found that caregiving responsibilities often interfered with family activities (56 percent of the respondents), leisure activities (52 percent), and work (39 percent).

"Presently, family members are caring for over 7 million older persons, and it's projected that number will rise to an astounding high of 14.4 million by the year 2050," Brooks says. "As family caregivers are the primary source of daily assistance to older adults, it's crucial that we keep this caregiving component of our nation's health care system viable."

The average person in the study was a 52-year-old married woman with children under the age of 18. Caregivers most often were called upon to help with household chores, personal care, managing finances, providing financial support and transportation, and companionship. One-fourth to about one-third of them had a variety of health problems, including headaches, nervousness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, and unusual drowsiness.

Subjects spent anywhere from one to 30 hours per week helping their elderly relatives, with an average of five hours weekly. About 12 percent visited the elderly daily, 28 percent weekly, 13 percent several times a month, and 46 percent monthly.

Krach says: "The working caregiver should be a major focus of nursing research. Health care professionals need to become more involved with developing, implementing and evaluating programs to assist caregivers of the elderly."

CONTACTS: Brooks, (765) 494-4004; e-mail,
Krach, (765) 494-4026

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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